'Dance Moms' Finale Recap: Day of the Dancing Dead
'Dance Moms' Finale Recap: Day of the Dancing Dead
Sarah Watson
Sarah Watson
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Abby and Cathy have their final showdown of the season at the Masters of Dance competition, and everyone cracks under the pressure. Kristie blows a fuse and drops some f-bombs. Kelly cries harder than Kendall backstage. Anthony fights with everyone in sight -- Cathy, Rick, Christi and even Paige! Only Jalen and Vivi seem to have their heads on straight tonight. Oh, and Nia, who wisely flies under the radar during this crazy mess of a Dance Moms season 3 finale.

Bitches, Pussycats and Momagers 

Still in New York after their successful stint on The View, the ALDC preps for its final competition of the season. Solos go to Asia, Chloe, Maddie and Kendall, and since Kelly's kids aren't in the solo mix, she cuts rehearsal and trots Brooke and Paige to auditions and recording studios. "Kelly's not just a mom," Christi tells us. "She's a momager." It's a little opportunistic and not very team-oriented, but hey, that's show-biz. 

The afternoon turns out to be fruitful for Brooke, Paige and Chloe (who also attends an audition). Brooke, in particular, gets some surprisingly good coaching from a member of The Pussycat Dolls, Melody Thornton, who shares tips for easing anxiety in the recording studio. When she feels shy about singing in front of a group, Thornton tells everyone, "I welcome anyone here to make fun of me. That's totally fine." She's cool with criticism and doesn't let it harm her performance. That's pretty vital for Brooke and all of the ALDC dancers to keep in mind, especially at the Masters of Dance, where criticism comes from every angle. (More on that in a bit!) 

Back at rehearsal, Kristie finally snaps after weeks of grown-up mean girl nonsense, and when she does, the claws come out for real. There's so much profanity and emotion that it's tough to even pinpoint what the conflict's all about, but new Kristie's ready to let her fists do the talking with old Christi, and Abby doesn't seem to mind at all. Kelly gives a half-joking, half-worried, "I'm a lover, not a fighter!" declaration and steers clear of the major combat, opting to chat up her friend to distract her. The two go for drinks in Brooklyn after rehearsals and auditions, and the other moms (minus Kristie) join them to talk smack and get drunk. The bartender's just glad to ironically appear on Dance Moms.   

Dancing on Thin Ice 

It's not all cat-fights and cocktails outside of rehearsal time. The moms also plan a fun event for the girls during their time off: ice-skating in Bryant Park! It's a neat idea and a great chance to just let the kids be kids -- except that these aren't just any kids. They're about to dance in a major competition and are contractually obligated not to engage in physically risky business like ice-skating! So, you know, this is almost a great idea, but not quite. 

Maddie, dance star that she is, doesn't want to risk getting hurt or upsetting Abby, but Melissa bullies her into some forced fun and normalcy. Asia, on the other hand, wants to skate but is forbidden by Kristie, who knows the rules and doesn't want to break them, especially not for this crowd. For once, being a pariah pays off, because Abby finds out about the excursion and forces every dancer except Asia to do push-ups while Asia practices her solo. Kristie gloats while the other moms sulk. 

Accepting Criticism 

While things are explosive at the ALDC, the energy isn't much better with Cathy's Apple Cores. Cathy tries to give a dancer some advice and Anthony gives her the stink eye, prompting Cathy to fly off the handle like her name is Abby Lee Miller, which only makes Anthony even more combative. The dads join in, the kids get upset and Cathy rightly tells everyone, "We are turning into something we don't want to turn into." 

Anthony still has to explain himself, though, asking Cathy not to interrupt a choreographer when his mind is just "floin' and goin'." He explains, "I'm an artist. I'm crazy. I am crazy in this place. Outside this place, I'm sweet as peaches." I don't know why so many people think being an artist is an excuse for bad behavior, but it isn't working for the Apples. Cathy cries, Jalen cries and Rick fumes. Only Vivi keeps calm and carries on, using the craziness to bond with Jalen later on (and talk about favorite colors and video games). Those two are just too cute. After they've all had time to cool down, the group finds some inspiration with the cast of Mama Mia

Back at the ALDC, Abby slings some arrows at Kendall, who then cries. It's the same old dance the two have had all season; Abby wants Kendall to appreciate her criticism (because it supposedly comes from a constructive place), but Kendall can't take the harsh words and breaks down. Abby finds a teachable moment and explains to the kids, "You're putting yourself out there to be criticized." It's true that they need thick skin, but it would be nice if the criticism from their teacher was consistently constructive. Jill tells Kendall so and peps her daughter up for competition.

Raising the Dead 

When the big day arrives, the kids shine, as always. Asia plays a surprisingly human robot and wins first place for her age category. Kendall is brilliant despite her conflict with Abby. Chloe gives an energetic performance with attitude. Zack performs his confusing medical drama of a dance routine well, although I'm with Abby -- is he playing a patient, doctor or both? And Maddie is winningly graceful, as always. They win fourth, third, second and first, respectively. 

When the groups perform, both teams bring their best efforts, but one definitely stands out as the better number. The meaningful message about young runaways doesn't quite translate onstage, while the Apple Core's Day of the Dead performance is...well, shockingly good! It's soft, elegant and romantic at times, then electric and violent at others. Anthony's dated pop roots may be showing a bit on this one (it definitely has a My Chemical Romance vibe for me), but all in all, the costumes, makeup, choreography and performances are enough to jolt Cathy's group to first place. She may not have taught the dancers or choreographed the dance, but she's stolen the show and risen to the top all the same. 

But you know Cathy; she's no graceful winner. After her group wows the judges, Cathy sits in judgement of the ALDC, loudly criticizing Paige with Anthony for everyone around them to hear. In a moment of poor judgement, Abby tells Paige about the comments and invites her to confront Cathy and Anthony, which she does with mixed results. Anthony calmly gives his advice, and Paige openly accepts it, but the other "adults" nearby can't let the moment pass without a screaming match. Kelly breaks down, lashes out a Cathy, poor Vivi and finally Abby, who never should have invited Paige to confront anyone in the first place. (Anyway, wasn't Abby just telling the girls that when they dance, they're putting themselves out there for criticism?)

In the final moments of the episode, Abby announces that she's looking at property in Los Angeles and might open a studio there. That may mean she's moving to LA and leaving the dance moms behind. So, is Abby running away from defeat, or is this her way of moving onward and upward? Will she even move at all? You'll find out next season, Dance Moms fans.

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(Image courtesy of Lifetime)